SC: FB should appear before Delhi riots panel, can choose not to answer queries

Top court says Delhi Assembly committee has the right to seek info on any matter related to peace without encroaching on Central laws

SC
The Supreme Court said the Delhi Assembly panel cannot don the role of a prosecuting agency. File Photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday (July 8) asked the social media giant Facebook to appear before the Delhi Assembly panel in 2020 riots probe. However, apex court said Facebook can’t be forced to answer on the law and order, which is looked after by the Centre.

Facebook India vice-president Ajit Mohan in September last year had moved the Supreme Court against a notice issued by a Delhi Assembly panel to appear before it over the social media platform’s alleged role in the Delhi riots in February that year.

The top court said the Delhi Assembly committee has the right to seek information on any matter related to peace and harmony without encroaching on (the) domain of Central laws, NDTV said.

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Also read: SC notice: Assembly panel probing FB ‘role’ in Delhi riots cancels meeting

A three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy in sharp remarks said: “The Delhi Assembly panel cannot don the role of a prosecuting agency and direct the filing of a chargesheet. The statements made by the assembly panel about making Facebook a co-accused in the chargesheet are outside its scope. The statements are hardly conducive to the fairness of the investigation.”

Facebook officials can choose not to answer questions as they appear before the panel, the court said.

The Delhi government argued that Mohan had appeared before a parliamentary panel too, and that the Central government backed him, saying the state assembly had “no power to issue notice, and Information Technology and laws relating to intermediaries fall within the domain of parliament.”

Also read: Delhi Assembly peace panel moves SC for intervention in Facebook VP’s case

Commenting on the role of social media, the court said: “Social media platforms have the power and potential to influence people across the border. Debates on these platforms, like Facebook, have the potential to polarise the society and less informed individuals may not verify the information and take it as the gospel of truth.”

More than 50 people had died last year in February after the groups supporting the contentious citizenship law clashed with those opposing it, sparking communal riots in north-east Delhi.

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